Song 18 – The Gallis Pole

SONG: The Gallis Pole ARTIST: Lead Belly YEAR: 1939 Listen to it here:  THE SONG: Gallis Pole aka Gallows Pole was originally a centuries-old folk song of unknown origin titled The Maid Freed from the Gallows.  The song may have originated in continental Europe, more specifically Finland, Sweden, Lithuania and Hungary, with over 50 notedContinue reading “Song 18 – The Gallis Pole”

Song 16 – Strange Fruit

SONG: Strange Fruit ARTIST: Billie Holiday YEAR: 1939 Listen to it here:  THE SONG: Strange Fruit originated in 1937 as a poem by Abel Meeropol, who wrote the words after seeing a photograph of the lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana in 1930.  He originally called the work “Bitter Fruit” andContinue reading “Song 16 – Strange Fruit”

Song 14 – Cross Road Blues

SONG: Cross Road Blues ARTIST: Robert Johnson YEAR: 1936 Listen to it here:  THE SONG: Cross Road Blues or Crossroads was written by blues artist Robert Johnson in 1936.  The song was the result of a 3rd recording session, recorded in a hotel with a portable disc cutting machine.  Two similar versions of the songContinue reading “Song 14 – Cross Road Blues”

Song 12 – Hula Girl

SONG: Hula Girl ARTIST: Sol Hoopii YEAR: 1934 Listen to it here:  THE SONG: There’s not a lot of information on the song itself, other than it was recorded in 1934 by Hawaiian Sol Ho’opii.  There was a big Hawaiian craze in America starting in 1915 when slack key guitar players and grass-skirted hula dancersContinue reading “Song 12 – Hula Girl”

Song 10 – Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

SONG: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime ARTIST: Bing Crosby YEAR: 1932 Listen to it here:  THE SONG: Brother, Can Your Spare A Dime was written in 1932 by Yip Harburg after his appliance business went bust.  He became a lyricist and teamed up with composer Jay Gorney, who borrowed the melody from a RussianContinue reading “Song 10 – Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”

Song 8: Minnie the Moocher

SONG: Minnie the Moocher ARTIST: Cab Calloway & His Orchestra YEAR: 1931 Listen to it here: THE SONG: Minnie the Moocher was first recorded and released in 1931 by Cab Calloway and his Orchestra.  It was the biggest hit of 1931 and was most famous for Cab’s nonsensical words (scat) of hi-de-hi-de-hi/ho.  It’s alsoContinue reading “Song 8: Minnie the Moocher”

Song 6: St James Infirmary Blues

SONG: St James’ Infirmary ARTIST: Armstrong and his Hot Five YEAR: 1929 Listen to it here: THE SONG: St James Infirmary was made famous by Louis Armstrong, but no one knows for sure the origins of this song or the author.  A man named Joe Primrose is often credited with the song, holding theContinue reading “Song 6: St James Infirmary Blues”

Song 5: Pokarekare

SONG: Pokarekare ARTIST: Ana Hato YEAR: 1929 Listen to it here: THE SONG: Pokarekare is a Maori love song that was probably composed communally around 1914. An east coast Maori composer, Paraire Tomoana claims to have written the song, and was the one to polish it up and publish the words in 1917. ThisContinue reading “Song 5: Pokarekare”

Song 4: Lagrimas Negras

SONG: Lagrimas Negras ARTIST: Trio Matamoros YEAR: 1928 Listen to it here: THE SONG: Lagrimas negras (Black Tears) was written in 1930 by Miguel Matamoros and is categorized as Bolero-son.  Miguel and his group Trio Matamoros recorded the song the following year in 1931, when Miguel was on his way home from Santo DomingoContinue reading “Song 4: Lagrimas Negras”

Song 2: St. Louis Blues

SONG: St. Louis Blues ARTIST: Bessie Smith YEAR: 1925 Listen to it here: THE SONG: St. Louis Blues was written in 1913 by W.C. Handy and was a massive hit, despite there being no music charts (they charted the song’s success by sheet music sales!).  Many blues songs at the time were traditional orContinue reading “Song 2: St. Louis Blues”